#048 Rants/things to explore

Happiness, for a person like me, is a direct function of “fuck it, I’ll do this because I feel like it”. All self-theories are going to be shitted on by future me. I often feel like I know too much to just shut the fuck up and do my work. Meh, normie stuff.

We’re novelty craving machines- even at the spiritual/intellectual level.

If you’re sacrificing soul time for money it better be worth it.

#047 A Case for Notebooks

Everyone should write their biography. You think you’re not worthy of a biography? Will Durant, Lessons of History : “The historian always oversimplifies, and hastily selects a manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never quite embrace or comprehend.” Your journal is your best shot at passing real history.

I’m going to say little about this. Call me naive, but things lose their sanctity when you talk about them. Notebooks are structures on which my brain is thrown around. Wouldn’t take a chance.

For the uninitiated, start by exploring r/journalling for inspiration. I suggest elaborating on prompts, you can (should) make your own later. Read the wiki for commonplace notebooks, which somewhere says-

A number of renaissance scholars kept something resembling a commonplace book – for example Leonardo da Vinci, who described his notebook exactly as a commonplace book is structured: “A collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place, according to the subjects of which they treat.”

 

(Photo: The Isaac Newton Manuscripts at the National Library)

Newton’s notebooks, where he documented his eye poking experiment.

 

#046 Rewiring Dopamine Circuits

No indulgence will liberate you from misery.

When you’re confused, you want calm. If you find calm, you throw it away like it meant nothing. You fuck yourself up to feel good about unfucking yourself.

The mental accountant doesn’t let you do what you want to do. “Why strain yourself, let’s get cheap dopamine instead- it’s so easy and the rewards are immediate”. Yeah, Easy and Immediate != Worth Having, but does the habitual mind know that?

Before you do something pleasurable, ask two questions-“What will happen if I did this 1000 times?” and “Will this pay dividends tomorrow?”.

Be careful what you train your mind to crave for.

#045 “I wish you were like that at 16”

“Writing is a sign of someone talking instead of doing.”

I saw a kid’s Github and said to myself “I wish you were like that at 16”. How’s he doing it? Better peers? Natural interest? Mentors?

The only thing worth taking away is “minimize future regret”. Is your future self going to look back and regret how you spent today? If yes, you’ve failed. If no, you’ve succeeded.

Writing is an exercise in talking to your past and future self.

#044 The Internet Is Not Real Life

My most humane realization this week was- repeat after me- the internet is not real life. I thought I could play mighty Ravana every single day. With my hundred potent heads, I’ll finally check every box in the SV/Twitter starter pack.

You know, everyone’s putting the truth back in fitness and who wants to miss out on truth, especially when it’s free.

Drink back coffee, meditate, read 10,000 books a year, take 10,000*3 online courses, write 10,000*4 words everyday because that’s what clear thinkers do. Also, play Batman by the night because that’s what men do. Hustle 16 hours a day, but hey, you also have to be mindful about it because annoyingly philosophical Dada said so. Oh, and 8 hours of sleep minimum. With information overload from Twitter.

Image result for ravana ramayan

What You’re Not

I publicly permit myself to not give a single fuck if some 10X moron is going to call me a loser. My meditations were a lot better before the internet got into my head. Now all I can think of when I’m meditating is your meditation advice. I don’t care about your “truth”, my Truth is that this is sick. Say what you want.

The only way I’d be able to do so many things in a pleasant way is when I get enough butlers and money. The structure of my life will be supported by others behind me- think coaches, classes, and everything you can do with money leverage. So stop comparing yourself to people who’re living with all that leverage. If you’re there, you aren’t mighty Ravana, you’re still a human being who’s better represented like this:

What You Could Be

Ladies and gentlemen, the internet is not real life, I tell you. But the internet is still pretty amazing. Calibrate yourself well and be delightfully human. Be more effective and efficient if that helps, but you now have the permission to be 0.1X if you feel like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that made you more productive.

#043 How Should You Design Your Life?

A brain like mine squanders horsepower on meaning searching. I’m learning to code, but since everyone’s learning to code (and boy, most people are way ahead), the alarms in my head go beep-beep all the time. The brain rebels. One side of this rebellion forces me to be introspective. The other is a raging mass of fear and impulsivity that won’t sit down to work.

I can take things one day at a time and get stoic. But then I’d start tolerating avoidable suffering and “To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic”, Viktor Frankl warned. Zen ideas like “follow your heart” and “flow with it”, despite their popular throwing around, are actually useful if (and only if) you know what you’re doing. This is not convoluted. If you want to “flow”, and you don’t have the inclinations of a monk or a backpack traveler, you need to know what you’re doing. Everything comes with it’s fluctuations and despite that, meaning has to be found.

The question is “How should you design your life?”

#042 Malfunctioning Guilt Alarms

Last August, I started changing the structure of my life very deliberately. The returns are net positive and in a sense pleasant, but it also fucked me up real bad. I don’t think I’m doing a good job handling the complexity of my new, more interesting life. All these covert bugs are creeping in, and the only debugging mantra I have is “everything is a blogpost idea”.

Writing feels like an unproductive (rather, semi-productive) indulgence to one part of my brain. It screams “Idiot, you should be doing all those other things! ” If I want to practice thinking clearly, then why do I feel guilty about writing? This extends to other areas too. If I want to be fit, then why do I feel guilty about working out? If I want to stimulate my head, then why do I feel guilty about reading?

I touched on this a little bit in an older post, reminding myself that I’m getting too caught up in self maintenance and that I might be living off the future. That said, I do suspect that the brain’s not all that honest about that guilt. I get where the thoughts are coming from. “Exercising makes you tired and you can’t pull a nighter after that. Writing something honest takes half a day. Talking to people takes a lot longer than you plan. All this time could be spent working. Therefore, I’m going to guilt shame until you stop doing these things.”

All of life would be much better if I have confidence in my plan, and for that, the planning has to be done well. The same brain that guilt trips me in the gym doesn’t help me think when I want it to. It won’t shut up when I want to rest. That’s probably why I like exercise so much- I have the permission to exist in a no-brain state throughout the period. Not that the brain shuts up, but yeah, the permission helps. I wish I were able to operate in different “modes”, and feel good about what I’m doing in the moment.

I’ve been trying to extend the model I used for fitness to every other area without fully realizing it. The algorithm for getting in shape looked something like this- don’t kill the streak, do something everyday, find the community and eventually it’ll catch on. A good friend (who predicts my behavior with surprising accuracy) pointed out that this might now be a good idea. I disagree, but she gave me a useful warning. Knowledge work is inherently different from fitness and I’ll probably need to get more tactile about programming. I’m riding the learning curve really slow.

First strategy is to get plenty code reviews. The following is an excerpt from Tobi Lutke, “Most days I came to work and found a printout of the code I wrote the day before annotated with red marker everywhere. I used poor idioms or could have chosen better abstractions or done a better job hinting at the architecture of the overall system. This taught me not to tangle my ego up in the code I write. There are always ways to improve it and getting this feedback is a gift.” And I need drills, I need to be training the mind to sit there and solve problems. I’m willing to use some willpower to push through for now, but I’m totally hoping that things run on flow state later.

All that aside, would I do it if it didn’t pay? Depends on what I’m working on. Find interesting things to work on.